Larry Craig defended himself yesterday by insisting that he had done nothing wrong, and that his decision to plead guilty was a mistake that he regretted. He also insisted that he would keep his Senate seat and didn't rule out running for re-election. However, some of his colleagues would prefer to see him running for the next flight back to Idaho, even in the White House:
Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's political support eroded significantly Wednesday as three fellow Republicans in Congress called for his resignation and party leaders pushed him from senior committee posts.
The White House expressed its disappointment, too — and not a word of support for the 62-year-old lawmaker, who pleaded guilty earlier this month to a charge stemming from an undercover police operation in an airport men's room.
Craig "represents the Republican party," said Rep. Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the first fellow GOP member of Congress to urge a resignation. ...
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Norm Coleman of Minnesota joined Hoekstra in urging Craig to step down.
McCain spoke out on an interview with CNN. "My opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."
Craig has more problems on the horizon. His own caucus plans to send a complaint to the Ethics Committee, which would have to conduct an embarrassing investigation into the incident. That would likely involve a subpoena to the arresting officer and some highly inflammatory testimony. The headlines would be brutal, and the blogosphere and punditocracy would have a field day.
McCain's standard needs a little tweaking, however. I believe that Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) managed to plead guilty to a DUI last year without endangering his seat in Congress. Driving under the influence, especially as Kennedy did, represents a greater danger to the community than attempting to make a sexual connection in an airport restroom -- and yet few people demanded Kennedy's resignation. If we want to establish standards of conduct that require members to resign after pleading guilty to crimes of any stripe, let's make sure we're applying that standard equally. The same should be said about ethics investigations as well.
That said, the severe lack of judgment shown by Craig certainly makes it clear that he can't be taken seriously as a representative of Idaho or anywhere else. I'd prefer that the people of Idaho render their judgment on Craig, perhaps with a recall process if they're incensed enough to remove him from office. Failing that, I'd prefer he leave so that Idaho's governor can appoint someone whose presence in Congress won't be a continuing embarrassment, but in the end it's the people of Idaho who should determine how embarrassed they are over this public peccadillo.
Republicans have made their distaste for their colleague clear, as they should. Craig now knows where he stands with his caucus and his party. He could take the honorable way out and resign under his own steam, but in the end, Idaho elected him and it's ultimately Idaho's decision as to whether he can represent them -- just as Louisiana had to take responsibility for David Vitter.